Alexei Ditter

Chinese Literature, Portland
Fellowship: 15.01.–14.07.2019



Fellow Video


Alexei Kamran Ditter is an associate professor of Chinese at Reed College in Portland, OR, USA. His research explores interactions between social and textual practices in late medieval China, focusing in particular on questions of place, genre, and memory. Publications include articles on 20th c. literary histories of the Tang dynasty (618–907), civil examinations and cover letters in late 8th c. China, conceptions of urban space in Duan Chengshi's 9th c. Records of Monasteries and Stupas, and the commercialization of funerary writing in the mid- to late-Tang, as well as a volume of annotated translations from a 10th c. anthology, Tales from Tang China: Selections from the Taiping guangji (co-edited with Jessey J.C. Choo and Sarah M. Allen, 2017). He is currently completing a monograph studying genre and memory in medieval Chinese literature and co-editing, with Jessey J.C. Choo, an anthology of late medieval entombed epitaph inscriptions.

Fields of Research

Medieval Chinese literature; genre theory, cultural memory and commemoration; place

Project outline

Immortalized in Stone: Memory Making in Late Medieval China
We propose to co-author a monograph, tentatively titled "Immortalized in Stone: Memory Making in Late Medieval China,” exploring the construction, circulation, and consumption of memory in China’s 7th through 10th centuries. Through interdisciplinary and collaborative analyses of the thousands of entombed epitaphs recently excavated in China, we trace the practices and processes of representing individuals and collectives and the propagation and preservation of the resulting identities and memories. This would be the first monograph focusing on late medieval Chinese entombed epigraphy in English and the first in-depth study in any language of the “life-cycle" of memory in the said period. Its primary scholarly contribution is advancing our knowledge of the mechanism through which late medieval Chinese interpreted the past, justified the present, and manipulate the future. Our comprehensive and sophisticated approach to analyze entombed epigraphies would supersede those currently used in researching Chinese history, literature, and religion. Thoroughly grounded in the everyday life of a medieval world, our theory of memory would provide medieval scholars outside of the China field a useful comparison and an alternative to those developed from observation of modern practices and technologies.

Publications (Selection)

Tales from Tang Dynasty China: Selections from the Taiping guangji 太平廣記, edited by Alexei Kamran Ditter, Jessey J.C. Choo, and Sarah M. Allen. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2017.

“Audience and Aims of Mid-Tang Muzhiming: A Preliminary Study.” Zhonggu Zhongguo yanjiu 中古中國研究1 (2017): 395-416.

“Civil Examinations and Cover Letters in the Mid-Tang: A Close Reading of Dugu Yu’s 獨 孤郁 (776-815) “Letter Submitted to Attendant Gentleman Quan of the Ministry of Rites”上禮部權侍郎書.” In History of Chinese Epistolary Culture, edited by Antje Richter, 642– 74. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

“The Commerce of Commemoration: Commissioned Muzhiming in the mid- to late-Tang.” Tang Studies 32 (2014): 21–46.

“Conceptions of Urban Space in Duan Chengshi’s “Records of Monasteries and Stupas.” Tang Studies 29 (2011): 62–83.

“New Shoes and Trimmed Feet: The Formation of the Modern Canon of Tang Dynasty Prose.” Tang Studies 27 (2009): 66–89.